As we wait to see what the General Assembly leadership serves up regarding the budget for fiscal 2011-2012, we need to keep an eye on the newly formed pension advisory group. This 12-member group is tasked with studying all options for restructuring-reforming the pension system and somehow closing the $7 billion gap that exists between funds on hand and funds needed to pay state workers and teachers in the future. The labor side of the group may consist of just four individuals, but their weight and influence on the group should not be underestimated. It's good to see Mayor Allan Fung of Cranston on the group as well as budget hawk Ernest Almonte, the former Auditor General who has been yelling about the trajectory of the pension system for years now. Governor Chafee has his own man on the panel too - Richard Licht, his Department of Administration Director.
Let's hope this group doesn't end up short in terms of really fixing the system long-term by recommending a viable overhaul and not just tweaking it further here and there. Rest assured the labor contingent, along with their elected friends in high places on Smith Hill who will ultimately decide what becomes law, will do everything in their power to keep the system structured as much as possible as it is now. That would not be a solution to the state's pension problem - just another steal from the taxpayers.